Summer is here, and it’s time to head outside and enjoy the fresh air! One great way to do that is to build outdoors, to add comfort and style as you lounge in the lawn. Today, we will take a look at the difference between pergola and gazebo for your backyard.
When that’s the desire, a great debate emerges. Pergola vs. Gazebo. Which one should you choose? The two are the most popular choices for outdoor structures, but they are often confused for each other, even though the structures are far from interchangeable when you get down to it.
They have a few key distinctions that are critical to know to help guide your decision-making. So let’s draw a line between pergolas and gazebos, taking into account both function and feel.
Over the course of this process, we will hopefully cover more than just the dictionary definition of these structures and show that there is more than just that at play. Ultimately, we hope those differences we identify can help you decide on which route to take! Both gazebos and pergolas can wholly transform a space, so let us guide you to the one that is just right for you!
The First Questions:
As you begin this process, try and go sit outside in the space you want to build in and take it all in. As you sit, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you want to just hang out here?
- Dine here? Grill Here? Entertain here?
- What is moving you to build in this space?
- What do you want the structure to cover you from?
- What limitations will you accept?
Remember the answers you come to for these questions, as they’ll help you along the whole process.
Let’s quickly paint a picture of their structures to help show what makes them different later.
A gazebo is often named as a pavilion structure. That’s a fancy term that just means it is a secondary structure attached or separate from the main house or building.
Gazebos come in a polygonal shape with a solid, pitched roof on top, and open sides to allow the fresh air inside. More elaborate gazebos may also offer built-in seating, surrounded by either railings or screens.
The silhouette of a gazebo is circular, turret, or even octagonal, but the shape of the gazebo is what is most iconic for most people.
They are a classic for a reason, their look and function have stood the test of time.
Pergolas are tall structures for the deck or yard that are built with four beams offering the support structure under a slatted or lattice roof, made of wood or metal. They can be stand-alone structures or be attached to the greater house. In more rare cases, pergolas are just the roof structure built off the side of the house!
Pergolas tend to be built above seating, dining, or garden areas to offer a partial cover from the elements that more easily blends into the environment.
The structure of a pergola can also be designed in a manner to encourage plant growth along its beams, but this is not always the case. All up to you!
Pergolas can provide a sense of modern beauty and leisure to you and your guests.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start to differentiate the two to help you decide between a gazebo and a pergola.
Shade and Cover
Discerning readers may have picked this up, but the first key difference between pergolas and gazebos can be identified by merely looking up. The roof and the protection from the elements is a very practical concern! It is the first thing you should consider.
As you might observe, the roof of a gazebo is solid and pitched, meaning slanted downward, offering excellent protection from both sun and rain, if that’s what you desire. Even if the storm passes through, you can comfortably sit outside and enjoy yourselves in a gazebo.
Gazebos may also come with significant cover on the sides, offering some protection from the wind. This cover can also offer a sense of privacy.
Gazebos can partially-to-completely match the house, or they can be simplified, to have a more minimalistic look. It’s up to you, but the most important thing to remember is the roof will be solid and there will be some sense of enclosure.
Meanwhile, as we mentioned earlier, the “roof” of a pergola is a slatted set of beams, a lattice arrangement, or a canopy. This design offers enough shade for comfort without completely removing the sun from the equation. Many see this as an advantage on the good days, but it does allow rain to pass through on the bad ones.
This potential issue can be mitigated however, with modern updates to pergola design offering a full or partial retractable roof without sacrificing the typical pergola feel.
Pergolas do not have any more to their structure on the sides, but can be placed above a dining area to give an excellent al fresco experience to you and your guests.
A practical concern that should not be ignored, the cost of the structures can play a big role in your choice. Now there are so many factors that can affect this, including materials, size, and how elaborate or ornamental the structure ends up.
Hardware, such as moving panels, fans, and lights, can be incorporated into both structures too, so keep that in mind for cost considerations.
Due to these factors, it is difficult to say which one is more or expensive in a definitive sense. However, in a general sense, due to their typical simplicity compared to gazebos, pergolas will be a little easier on your wallet.
What about the cost in terms of space? Both pergolas and gazebos are intended to enhance the space they are in, but the pergola does so in a, perhaps, more economical way.
As the nature of a pergola structure is simple, it demands less space to be built. The four support beams need less of a foundation than the support structure of a gazebo, so a pergola’s footprint is often smaller than its counterpart.
This can help you to make the most of limited space in a way that gazebos cannot do.
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As they are outdoor structures, how much nature you want to be surrounded by as you enjoy your deck and yard should continue to come into consideration.
Pergolas may have the decisive advantage here, if you are a nature lover. Beyond giving you 360 degrees of view, pergolas can incorporate greenery into their very design!
Would you like your garden of flowers and vines to bloom up and over you? Pergolas can offer that and more!
So, if you have a creative mind, pergolas give more space to be unique.
Gazebos, on the other hand, allow you to sit separate from any greenery and comfortably observe it. Gazebos give you more separation from nature, without depriving you of the enjoyment of it outside the structure.
Gazebos can actually incorporate plants in them, but this is done with beds and hanging pots, and typically not through the architecture itself. They can also incorporate curtains, screens, or nets to deal with pesky bugs like mosquitos and horseflies, which can really put a damper on outdoor enjoyment.
Do you want to feel like you’re sitting in nature or do you want to feel surrounded by nature, but safely separate?
As we move from the more practical questions into stylistic choices, keep in mind that these are just as important to consider. You don’t want to find yourself looking outside and wishing you’d gone with a different look when it’s all said and done.
So, what sets pergolas and gazebos apart aesthetically? It all boils down to standing out vs. blending in with the surroundings.
Gazebos stand out once they are built. They are more ornate, and therefore command attention to themselves. They “catch the eye” and draw people into them.
There’s a reason that gazebos are a favorite focal point for parks and public spaces. They are a gathering spot, almost a cathedral-esque structure to bring people together.
For those that want to impress, or want a bit of a display in their garden or patio, gazebos can offer that and more.
Pergolas, on the other hand, are a popular choice for those who want their structure to seamlessly become part of the entire deck and yard. Pergolas still feel like their own separate space of course, but they can more easily blend into the total picture.
Pergolas do not explicitly try to catch the eye or be a focal point. When built onto a house or deck, they extend your indoor space into your outdoor space, acting as a transition space.
They look less like their own individual structure, and more like a seamless continuation of the environment around them.
Now, these categories aren’t as strict as earlier ones, as pergolas can command attention and gazebos can blend into a greater house, but they do both just trend in their specific directions.
When it comes to the feel of the difference between pergola and gazebo, the words elegant and classic spring to mind. Perhaps even more than the roof, this is what sets the two excellent options for outdoor entertainment apart.
Pergolas offer a simple elegance to your deck or outdoor space. The structure is sleek, refined, and durable, and pergolas’ relaxed form and open air feel are what make them a modern favorite.
Just sitting in a pergola for a few minutes refreshes the soul. Fair warning: the calm you can experience with a pergola may turn those minutes into hours!
Gazebos are icons of outdoor design, their classic look is instantly recognizable. They are much more elaborate than pergolas, and oftentimes go to great lengths to match the greater house in design.
Gazebos are more complex, yes, with more elements to them, but with that they bring more of a sense of security, privacy, and comfort than pergolas.
When you build a gazebo, you can feel some permanence come from them, of legacy and lasting beauty. Their structure is solid and tough, and they will withstand anything thrown at them.
Pergola or gazebo, what’s the verdict ?
After the practical considerations, particularly concerning cover, you should focus on these questions, of what message you are trying to send with your design.
- Do you want to have the structure be a statement in and of itself?
- Do you want the structure to be a “frame” for other elements?
The message can even be nothing at all! Not everything must be part of a grand plan, it can always just be what feels right. That’s allowed!
From our end, if you’re looking for a backyard building that will add to the value of your house, you can’t go wrong with either. Rest assured, however, that no matter what decision you make, we can build the pergola or gazebo that is perfect for you!